Note from Hint Mama: Before my daughter was born and even when she was an infant, I assumed that I’d never be that parent with toys taking over the living room, dining room and other rooms in the house. But, here we are, 21 months later, and my daughter’s toy collection is taking up more and more space and I know I need to purge at least a few toys soon. Luckily, I have this hint from Hint Mama contributor Karen Witham, who writes over at Thoughtstream, to help me.
It happens quickly. One minute you’re gazing lovingly at your adorable newborn, nestled in his or her crib, flanked by neat bins of blankies and toys and a carefully curated bookshelf of classic nursery tales.
Then before you know what’s hit you, you have a full-fledged actual kid (or two, or three. . .) hosting playdates and trashing bedrooms with a suddenly obscene amount of toys in which they will quickly lose interest. What to do?
Today’s hint is one trick for purging toys that I learned from professional organizer (and mom), Debbie Ghiglieri of “Get Organized by Deb.”
Her trick: Purge the toy collection prior to a special occasion when more toys are coming in, such as Christmas, Hanukkah or a birthday, making sure the amount of toys that go out roughly equals the amount that will come in.
“Revisit toys with your child prior to special occasions to determine what may be donated or what should simply be tossed,” Ms. Ghiglieri says.
Not only does this method help prevent clutter from getting too out of control, it’s also a way to teach your children the importance of doing good by encouraging them to donate toys they no longer use. “Encourage your children to ‘pay it forward’ by passing on toys and clothes that they’ve outgrown,” Ms. Ghiglieri says.
To be sure, your little one may not be ready to separate from his or her toys. Like so many other challenging moments of parenting, when it comes to letting go of “stuff,” you have got to take the bull by the horns, and be prepared to weather your child’s disapproval.
Even if you have tons of space, which I don’t, I believe that kids appreciate (and play with!) their toys more when there are fewer of them, as pointed out over at Becoming Minimalist. I also think that kids learn a good lesson about the tradeoffs of life when they realize new toys won’t come in until some old ones are let go.
(I don’t mean to sound overly tough; my 6-year-old son’s vast collection of Thomas trains is currently gathering dust in our garage because he loves knowing that they are still there, and because I still get misty when I think of his toddler excitement over the Island of Sodor. Also, my mom bought him most of those trains, and in the future I have a feeling they will be very special to me.)
Of course, you’ll want to involve your child in deciding which toys should go and which should stay, and you’ll want to take his or her opinion into account. I’ve been surprised by what my kids didn’t think twice about donating and what they insisted we hang on to, and I generally follow their suggestions, assuming they’re letting the right amount of toys go.
I think letting my kids have the first say on what goes and what stays helps them to feel like their opinions matter and that they can trust me to not arbitrarily get rid of their special possessions. That said, sometimes I do a sweep and toss out a bunch of those throwaway plastic toys you get at parties and Chuck E. Cheese’s, and no one is the wiser.
Finally, once you’ve got the purging done and it’s time to donate (assuming you don’t have any friends you want to pass the toys along to), here’s one list of ideas from About.com on “where to donate toys” and here’s another list from Oprah.com on “where to get rid of anything.”
Also, ask friends with school-age kids if they are gathering donations for school-wide or sports team yard sales. Ms. Ghiglieri notes that you should always check with an organization for its donation guidelines and get a receipt for your taxes, too.
If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of trying to get everything you’re purging to the various charities and disposal locations, you can hire a TaskRabbit to come pick up your things and make the run for you.
Have you tried a similar out with the old/in with the new purging approach? Why or why not? What is your toughest challenge or best recommendation for toy-related purging?